**First Time At Auction**
Pre-Columbian, Gulf Coast of Mexico, Veracruz culture, ca. 500 to 700 CE. A ceramic standing "Sonriente" figure. Like many hollow pieces of pottery from this region, it functions as an ocarina, with a mouthpiece at the top of the head and a hole low on its back for emitting sound. Sonrientes, or "smiling faces", are the most famous pottery from this period in Veracruz (known as Remojadas for its keystone archaeological site). Like this one, they depict wide, smiling, childlike faces, often with teeth showing. This figure also wears the traditional jewelry, including what appear to be delicately carved cowrie shells on his necklace; this is interesting because cowrie shells are a Pacific coast product and so would have had to be traded to arrive in the Veracruz region. He wears a huge, bell-like pectoral and large, pointed earrings. Atop his head is an elaborate, pointed headdress. The figure also wears a loincloth, similarly decorated with two cowrie shell beads. Size: 7.15" W x 10.4" H (18.2 cm x 26.4 cm); 11.75" H (29.8 cm) on included custom stand.
Smiling faces are very rare in Mesoamerican art, but in Remojadas and the surrounding area, there are thousands of these Sonrientes figures, leading to a mystery for archaeologists. Some have suggested that the smiles are the result of consuming the alcoholic beverage pulque, or taking hallucinogenic drugs; others see them as representing performers.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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